Beware of Fumes

blog 16
September 12, 2016

Beware of Fumes

A recent case in the Hamilton District Court saw Hamilton Flooring Limited fined $33,125 and ordered to pay reparations of $24,482 after a worker was seriously burnt in a fireball caused by igniting vapours from a flammable solvent. This accident demonstrates the risk of using these substances in a reasonably enclosed area where the vapours can accumulate.

The victim and a co-worker were replacing vinyl flooring in a bathroom at Waikato Hospital. Another worker was using a LPG gas blowtorch while the victim was applying a highly flammable solvent-based adhesive with a paint brush nearby. The naked flame from the blowtorch ignited the adhesive vapours, resulting in the victim sustaining serious burns to his calves and right arm.

The Court found that Hamilton Flooring failed to identify and manage the risks posed by the gas torch and the flammable adhesive at the same time in an enclosed area. They should have made certain that no ignition sources were present when using a flammable adhesive, and that the bathroom area was safely ventilated.

In this case it appears that there was little thought about the two activities being undertaken at the same time. At a minimum, some discussion between the workers about the risks associated with the job should have occurred before work started.

This case provides a reminder of risks posed by vapour. Not only you can’t see it, but in some cases you may no longer be able to smell it – both of which are triggers for workers to do something to manage the risk.

A similar issue to be mindful of is using petrol powered tools and equipment inside. It is a reminder that the carbon monoxide is a common and deadly poison, which also cannot be seen or smelt. WorkSafe have recently issued a bulletin about the risk of small engines.

If you are not sure about risks associated with the work you do or would like further assistance. Contact us at